Psychology of Parenting
How Does a Parent’s Death Affect a Child?

How Does a Parent’s Death Affect a Child?

As a child who has suffered the death of a parent at a young age, this is a topic that hits home hard. I lost my own mother to suicide when I was 5 years old.

One of the most painful occurrences that may occur in childhood is the loss of a parent. An estimated 3.5 percent of children under the age of 18 (roughly 2.5 million) in the United States have lost a parent.

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What Is The Worst Age To Lose A Parent

Grief and grief are not a race. There is no such thing as the “worst age to lose a parent.” The long-term effects of losing a parent as a kid are determined by their connection prior to the death as well as the assistance they get after the loss.

How Does The Death Of A Parent Affect A Child

The loss of a parent generally increases the likelihood of insufficient care and affects the family’s financial situation.

In some families, this puts greater demands on the bereaved kid to take on the obligations of the deceased parent while also isolating themselves from peers. In others, parental absence is frequently associated with indications of poor psychosocial well-being, behavioral changes, and an increase in stress and sleep problems.

The psychological consequences of losing a mother or father are important as well. Children who have lost a parent are at a higher risk for a variety of negative outcomes, including mental health issues (e.g., depression, anxiety, somatic complaints, post-traumatic stress symptoms), shorter schooling, lower academic success, lower self-esteem, and increased sexual risk behaviors.

Given the detrimental long-term repercussions of parental mortality, it is critical that society assist children in grieving in a healthy manner. However, societal attitudes and persistent misunderstandings can obstruct proper assistance for children and harm them.

How Does The Surviving Parent’s Reaction Affect A Child

Children seek on their parents to unconditionally love them while shielding them from the unpleasant truths of life. When a parent dies, the kid’s life typically becomes considerably scarier and more unknown, causing the child to worry about what will happen next.

This obviously throws a significant strain on the remaining parent and other family members who wish to assist the kid in grieving while also dealing with their own grief following the death of a loved one.

While some cultures see grief positively, others advise adults who are caring for grieving children to keep their emotions in check. These cultures frequently justify the practice by claiming that children turn to their elders to remain strong in times of adversity.

These folks have suppressed or repressed emotions as a result.

Suppressing emotions is an intentional and purposeful attempt to conceal one’s feelings from others. A parent or guardian may be unhappy, but instead of expressing it, they choose to hide it while their child is there.

Emotions that have been suppressed are frequently unconscious. Repressed emotions are the body’s attempt to rid itself of negative ideas. Individuals that are repressed may not be consciously aware of their feelings at the time. These suppressed emotions may ultimately come to the surface.

On the one hand, research has shown that it impedes the healing process for both the parent and the kid. Research, on the other hand, discovered that repressed emotions have an adaptive function in the mourning process.

It is still debatable if a parent’s emotion suppression or repression is a useful coping technique. Suppressing or repressing a parent’s feelings may or may not be beneficial to their own mental health. What is more significant, though, is how their beliefs in emotion denial impact how they assist their child cope with loss.

When surviving parents feel their children are incapable of comprehending death or effectively dealing with the emotions and concerns it evokes, they prefer to ignore the subject at home and appear “normal” around the kid.

However, the acts of important adults in the days, weeks, and months following the loss can enhance children’s ability to constructively cope with death.

Rather than brushing the matter under the floor and pretending everything is OK, caregivers of bereaved children might employ the following techniques to assist them in effectively coping.

How to Help a Grieving Child

The Arizona State University (ASU) Family Bereavement Program (FBP) is an evidence-based intervention for parentally bereaved families. Its goal is to build the resilience of young children and surviving parents.

The strategies are as follows.

Allow Child To Grieve

The impact of a parent’s death on a kid is determined by how the significant people in their life respond to their grief. A kid who has lost a parent must understand that it is okay to express feelings and talk about the person who died. It is critical to normalize the mourning process. It enables children to feel less anxious about the future.

Following the loss of a parent, children may experience a range of emotions, including anger and remorse. They must understand that death is never the childrens responsibility. It is also typical for the child to have visions or dreams about their departed parent. They do not have to forget about their deceased parents.

Use Positive Parenting

Misbehaving is a common way for children to express their difficulties adapting to the changes that have occurred as a result of the loss. Pleasant parenting fosters a positive parent-child bond and an environment conducive to open communication.

Positive parenting parents are kind and supportive. They employ effective positive discipline, with the parent being both kind and tough. Effective positive parenting (like inductive discipline)can aid children’s transition following the death of a parent. It lowers the risk of child mental disease, such as severe depressive disorder, and promotes better adaptability in bereaved children.

Reduce Exposure To Negative Things

Negative life experiences after parental bereavement have been related to an increase in child mental health issues. Holidays, for example, may be tough for grieving families in the first two years, especially for the children. Parents may utilize strong listening skills to offer a secure atmosphere for their children to express their thoughts about the holiday.

Bereaved children are frequently concerned when their parents begin to date and acquire new long-term love partners. Parents might gradually introduce a new spouse or family member. Discuss the connection with their children honestly and in an age-appropriate manner.

Work On Coping Skills

Following the death of one or both parents, active coping techniques are related to more favourable adaption. Among these strategies are:

Reframe negative self-statements to incorporate more positive self-talk and optimism.
Give up the notion that you can control uncontrolled occurrences and instead focus on problem-solving and obtaining emotional support to assist you to deal with difficult situations.

Parents may help grieving children acquire a feeling of efficacy by having them establish objectives for practicing these abilities. When the children apply these techniques, they may offer specific positive feedback. Parents should also maintain their faith in their children’s capacity to deal with challenges.

Bereaved children may feel more powerless and have less influence over events that occur to them than their non-bereaved classmates.

Helping children cope with worry after losing a parent at a young age can be accomplished by emphasizing teaching children their duties. Encourage “an adaptive feeling of control by concentrating on differentiating between issues that are the childrens ‘job to address’ and those that are the adult’s responsibility.”

For example, if the remaining parent is having difficulty coping with the loss, they should first be honest with the kid about their difficulties. The parent can then inform them that they do not expect their child to assist them and will instead seek the assistance of a skilled expert.

Children benefit from hearing that their parents will be able to control his or her discomfort better over time and that their job entails focusing on things such as homework completion and socializing with friends.

The Death of a Parent Affects a Child

When dealing with FBP practices, keep in mind that certain techniques will work immediately and others will not. Allow for some leeway. Recognize that this path must be undertaken one day at a time. The grief of losing a parent will almost certainly never go away completely, but the remaining parent and their children will find pleasure again.

References

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  11. 12.Haine RA, Wolchik SA, Sandler IN, Millsap RE, Ayers TS. Positive Parenting as a Protective Resource for Parentally Bereaved Children. Death Studies. Published online January 2006:1-28. doi:10.1080/07481180500348639
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